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East Java residents protest against major gold mining permit

Tempo - October 24, 2022

Sunudyantoro, Jakarta – A number of residents of Trenggalek in East Java, have traveled to Jakarta to protest against the mining permit issued for gold mining firm PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara (SMN) – whose majority shares are owned by Australian firm Far East Gold (FEG) – and voiced against the mining permit that directly affects 12,833.57 hectares or nearly 10 percent of the East Java sub-regency.

Trenggalek itself consists of 126,140 hectares of space while the mining permit the government has granted to the private firm is located across 9 out of 14 subdistricts in Trenggalek. The group of protestors named themselves the Trenggalek People's Alliance with 39 representatives already present in the capital city.

The group of protestors plans to protest in Jakarta from October 24 to October 26 at the Directorate General of Mineral and Coal headquarters, the Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning Ministry, the Environment and Forestry Ministry, and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry headquarters.

During their stay in Jakarta, these representatives will also meet with environmental watchdogs such as Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi); Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam); and the Muhammadiyah's Law, Human Rights, and Public Policy.

A spokesperson for the alliance, Trigus Dodik Susilo said the rejection against the mining activities is spread out and in unity. A number of mass organizations from various religious backgrounds have also shown their protests.

"Back in Trenggalek itself, the voices against the gold mine are strong and solid," said Trigus.

According to him, SMN had carried out exploration drilling at 18 drilling points in May 2016. The core area of this gold mine plan is in Karangrejo and Ngadimulyo Villages, Kampak District. Most of the concession areas are protected areas, residential areas, and karst ecosystems at an altitude of 400 to 500 meters above sea level.

Major floods and environmental effects

Trigus said that last week Trenggalek had experienced major flash floods due to extreme rains, most of which came from the gold mining concession area.

"If the karst areas and protected areas are cleared of forest and hundreds of hectares of land or even thousands of hectares are excavated, you can imagine what it will be like if extreme rains occur again. Trenggalek will sink," he said.

SMN initially was granted a permit for gold mining and exploration in the areas by the Trenggalek Regent in 2005 and was also given the green light by the Regent in 2009.

However, recently, the current Regent of Trenggalek, Mochamad Nur Arifin or Ipin stated that the granting of a gold mining permit was contrary to the Regional Regulation on Spatial Planning and the Trenggalek Region. This regulation was enacted in 2012 and is valid until 2032.

In addition, PT SMN's concession is in a protected area which includes protected forest areas, water catchment areas, springs, and rivers. The mining permit area is also included in the cave nature conservation area, waterfall nature conservation, mountain nature conservation, and karst geological protected area.

"The area is prone to disasters, landslides and floods," said Ipin.

Trenggalek regent's fight against the gold mine

Ipin has written to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources three times asking that PT SMN's permit be revoked. The first letter he sent in May last year. Because the Ministry gave PT SMN the green light, Ipin again wrote to the Ministry last February. The ministry replied to this letter by stating that the exploitation permit had gone through various studies. The Regent did not give up, he wrote another letter to the ministry on August 9.

Tempo contacted Ridwan Djamaluddin, Director General of Mineral and Coal of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources since 2020. He was the one who issued the ESDM Ministry permit for PT SMN. Now, he is also the acting governor of Bangka Belitung. However, Ridwan did not answer. Tempo also reached out to the Head of the Mineral and Coal Working Group at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Iko Deasy, who did not reply to our requests for confirmation.

PT SMN External Affairs Handi Andrian told Tempo last September, according to regulations, exploration IUP holders are guaranteed to obtain Production Operation IUP as an upgrade, by submitting an application and meeting the requirements.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1648632/east-java-residents-protest-against-major-gold-mining-permi